LRGH in recovery

Health system reports greatly reduced loss for last fiscal year


LACONIA — LRGHealthcare, which runs Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital, recorded a $1.8 million operating loss in 2016, an improvement over the prior year loss of $11.3 million, company officials said at their general meeting.

We have made major strides in improving our financial performance,” President and CEO Kevin Donovan said in the meeting Wednesday at Beane Conference Center. “We were losing approximately $1 million a month on an annual basis.”

Cost-saving measures included a work force reduction of 120 full-time employees. Declining reimbursement from government health insurance programs contributed to the financial struggles for LRGHealthcare, a not-for-profit charitable trust.

Chief Financial Officer Wayne Bennett said the 2016 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, was a time of transition.

I'm pleased to report that a lot of the results that partially improved in FY16 have further improved in FY17,” he said. “Through the first five months of Fiscal Year '17, we are now operating at 1 percent operating gain.”

What we need is a few years of sustained gains from operations to replenish our balance sheet and give us the liquidity we need to invest in the future of the organization.”

He described challenges facing health care systems.

More and more people are covered by government health insurance programs as Medicare ranks swell with Baby Boomers and states enlarge Medicaid programs. Funding for these programs is tight, affecting reimbursement rates to health care providers.

We used to be able to shift the cost of some of that care to employer-sponsored health plans, but those businesses are having a harder time paying for the cost of health care for their employees and they are shifting more and more of the burden of health care to their employees,” Bennett said.

People are having trouble coming up with out-of-pocket health care expenses, and they are delaying care, he said.

At the meeting, Franklin City Councilor Scott Clarenbach, a retired fire chief on the LRGHealthcare Board, won the Rhoda C. Ladd Award and the Sally Proctor Award, given in acknowledgment for dedication to improving the community's healthcare system.

Lakes Region General Hospital has 132 beds. Franklin Regional Hospital is a 25-bed hospital. The system also has 22 affiliated medical practices and service programs.


New residential subdivision in The Weirs gets Planning Board OK


LACONIA — A developer is proposing an 86-unit residential development called "The Gardens at Winnipesaukee" on Endicott Street East in The Weirs that would be built with significant green space and smaller-than-normal lot sizes.

The Planning Board gave a conditional use permit for the so-called "cluster development" at its meeting Tuesday and could consider the site plan and the subdivision proposal in a public hearing as early as May 2.

Assistant Planning Director Brandee Loughlin said the 21-acre subdivision will be made up of detached, single-family housing, with a couple of duplexes.

"It won't be the typical subdivision that is chopped up into lots that meet minimum lot size requirements," she said. "Frontages can be less. Standard setbacks don't necessarily apply.

"In exchange, a significant amount of property has to be set aside as green space.

"The idea is to concentrate the development rather than sprawling it out. It would in theory allow a developer to save money."

Standard lot size is 10,000 square feet. This development would have 8,000-square-foot lots.

Patrick Wood, an attorney for the developer, Phoenix Capital, said The Gardens will have a playground, a pergola, a gazebo and a meeting room.

"The developer, Phoenix Capital, believes The Gardens at Winnipesaukee will be a pleasant, safe and healthy living environment for its residents," he said.

"The Gardens at Winnipesaukee will be a planned residential development that will be compatible with its neighborhood."

A homeowners' association will be formed to take care of common areas. Property to the west is in the Resort Commercial District and includes a city park, a go-cart park and a batting cage.

"The streets, sidewalks, lighting, common areas, amenities and drainage systems have been designed to provide a residential neighborhood that will be a positive addition to the City of Laconia," Wood said.

Prior owners of the land had planned a subdivision that never got off the ground.

Loughlin said concerns from neighbors have generally been limited to discussion about construction traffic and requirements for adequate berms to deal with light from headlights on cars using subdivision roads.


County, Gunstock working on payment to government


LACONIA — Belknap County and the Gunstock Area Commission have yet to reach agreement on the amount of money the county-owned recreation area will pay to the county, but the county delegation and Gunstock will meet April 18 to discuss the situation.
Over the last five years, Gunstock has been paying $175,000 a year but their agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2016, and no agreement has yet been reached on a new one.
The most recent proposal by the delegation would reduce annual payments from the county-owned recreation area to the county from $175,000 to $100,000, but require that Gunstock also place $100,000 a year in its operating cash reserve fund.
Sean Sullivan, chairman of the the Gunstock Commission, said that the commission has concerns over building sufficient reserves that would enable it to conduct its business without having to rely on annual revenue anticipation notes which rely on the county's credit.
The proposed agreement says that the purpose of the operating cash reserve fund is to reduce the need for annual revenue anticipation notes for the operation of Gunstock. The notes are usually sought in late spring and are on the order of around $750,000 to provide cash for the startup of the winter ski season.
The proposed agreement, which was presented to the county delegation by Rep. Howard (R-Alton), in February, also calls for a five-year moratorium on bonding for expansion of the ski area to reduce the amount of existing bond debt that the county is liable for.
It also requires that the commission prepare a master development plan covering operations, facility and site improvements and strategic plans for Gunstock.
The Gunstock Area Commission is a five-member board appointed by the delegation. It was established by state law in 1959 to oversee the operations of Gunstock. It has no authority to take on debt and relies on the county's borrowing authority.
Sullivan says that a poor 2015-2016 ski season resulted in a net operating loss to Gunstock of $954,145, compared with a net operating profit of $495,904 for the previous year. Numbers for this year's ski season, which ended Sunday, are expected to be substantially better than last year.
If the numbers in the proposed agreement are eventually adopted, it will reduce the amount paid to the county by $75,000, which will increase the revenue shortfall in the budget recently approved by the county delegation, which included $175,000 in revenue from Gunstock.